Free Animal Shelter Manager Tops Proprietary Alternatives

The huge number of unwanted pets in the world is a large and growing problem. You can address the problem personally by spaying or neutering your pet, not buying from pet stores, and patronizing your local animal shelter. If you want to do something on a larger scale, you might consider opening an animal shelter yourself. As a user of free and open source software, you’ll want to use Animal Shelter Manager to run your operations.

ASM is the only free (as in freedom and as in beer) shelter management package. Other similar applications are expensive or proprietary or tie shelters into buying a product such as insurance, microchipping, or food – or all three.

Developer Robin Rawson-Tetley has been actively working on ASM for 10 years, so the software is mature and stable. Rawson-Tetley says it has more features and is more customisable than similar packages. Users can add their own fields, reports, documentation templates, and toolbar buttons to invoke third-party apps.

Rawson-Tetley is in the enviable position of not having to do any marketing to popularize his application. “There is so little free competition that ASM is the only logical choice for most shelters. I try to make the site friendly by outlining the main features with some screenshots and including some testimonials from shelters. Other than that, ASM pretty much sells itself.”

Many users find their way to ASM from Google and the like. “I get probably 50% of hits from search engine traffic. A lot come from Petfinder.com – they have a comparison of available shelter software on their site, and ASM wins every time on features and price.”

In the latest version, released last week, Rawson-Tetley added the facility to add fields specific to a given shelter, and a getting started screen that allows you to choose the animal types your shelter deals with and remove unwanted items from the database. The software includes sophisticated features like a command-line interface that allows users to automate publishing adoptable animals to not only their own web sites, but also to major adoption sites, such as Petfinder.com, AdoptaPet.com, and Pets911.com. If you have a webcam, ASM can use video4linux or a webcam with an HTTP interface to grab stills of animals, which are useful for ensuring that booked-in animals have an identification image.

In future versions Rawson-Tetley promises more flexibility with the customizable fields, a centralized reports repository that allows users to pick and choose from a large library of reports, custom graphs, and improved lost and found animal matching.

Rawson-Tetley says ASM could use help with translations and documentation. While the software is already translated into six languages, more would help make the program as widely useful as possible. If you’d like to help, the best way to get in touch is via e-mail.

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